September 29, 2010
Wait for safe ice to form and then give these top-rated hardwater hotspots a try this winter. (January 2006)
Photo by Michael Skinner
Okay, ice-fishing fans, it is that time of year again, so name your poison! "Trout and salmon," you say? No problem. Maybe bass, pickerel or northern pike? No problem there, either. Big lakes? Small ponds? Whatever your angling heart desires, New England has it all, and the exciting thing is, from Maine to Connecticut, things should start to "heat up" this month.
Even if the winter is normal, most others will come online later, and when they do, there will be plenty of opportunities available around the region.
With the increasing popularity of ice-fishing in recent years, more waters are now open to winter angling than ever before. Along with holdover fish from previous stocking efforts and wild fish, most fisheries departments are making supplemental stockings during late summer or early fall in anticipation of the winter season. There is not only plenty of fish to go around, but some trophy classes can be found just about anywhere you go.
Whatever the next few weeks bring, there is something for everyone out there, every reason to be excited and no reason not to hit the ice. Here's a look at a few places that are definitely worth trying this winter.
It may not be the largest body of water in southern Maine, but in recent years, Kennebunk Pond in Lyman has come on strong as a hotspot for winter trout. Most years, the pond freezes over early, allowing access by the time trout are legal targets on Jan. 1.
Kennebunk Pond offers easy access and is relatively close to Sanford, Biddeford and Saco, and only about 40 minutes from Portland.
From Biddeford, take Route 111 west toward Sanford until you hit the Kennebunk Pond Road on the right in Lyman across from the old Spang Mill. There is a public beach that offers easy access. The pond can be busy on weekends, but during the week it is not unusual to see just a handful of fishermen on the ice.
While it is possible to catch trout anywhere on the pond, most of the effort takes place from about the middle of the pond to the west end. Local fishermen always have ice shacks on the pond, and they are most often over the best water. Just follow the crowds!
There are no special rules governing Kennebunk Pond, which is managed under the state's general length, bag and possession limits.
Brown trout are the primary target on the pond, and in recent years, it has been stocked with several hundred 12- to 14-inch fish in October in anticipation of the winter season. By the time the season opens, specimens up to 18 inches are not uncommon.
The pond also contains a few holdovers from spring and previous year stockings, and each winter several lucky hardwater fishermen haul in lunkers in the 2- to 4-pound range. A few rainbows and brook trout are also stocked when available, so a mixed bag is possible.
The biggest towns in the area are Sanford, Biddeford and Saco, all accessible via Route 111.
For information on lodging and services in the area, contact the Sanford-Springvale Chamber of Commerce at (207) 324-4280; or visit the agency's Web site at
www.sanfordchamber.com; call the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce at (207) 282-1567; or visit
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists confirmed the presence of northern pike in the Belgrade Lakes back in the early 1980s. Since then, the impromptu fishery has developed a huge following and is often the topic of discussion during the winter season. Each winter, pike weighing into the double digits are brought through the ice, and some exceeding 30 pounds have been caught.
According to recent studies, spawning-sized males average 26 inches and weigh about 5 pounds, while spawning-sized females average 31 inches and 9 pounds.
Five ponds in the Belgrade region now support northern pike. Covering nearly 8,240 acres, the biggest of the lot, is Great Pond in the towns of Rome and Belgrade. With a maximum depth of 69 feet and a number of large shallow coves, the pond offers perfect habitat for the species, and pike can be found just about everywhere.
Some good spots to explore, however, include North Bay, much of which is less than 30 feet deep. The area off the town of Rome on the north end can be good, as can both sides of Hoyt Island, including along the mainland shoreline on the west side. The area off Long Point and Camp Abena Point and off the village of Belgrade Lakes can produce good action as well.
On the east shore, the water off Cooks Beach and Hatch Cove is good, and the large coves on the south end are popular spots also, especially around Foster Point and off Austin Bog, where Bog Brook enters the lake.
Great Pond may be easily accessed from Route 27 out of Augusta off Interstate 95.
The minimum length limit on pike is 24 inches, and the daily bag limit is two fish.
Non-resident fishing licenses, bait, jigs and other fishing tackle, lodging and other services may be found in Belgrade Lakes, or in the town of Rome on Route 225 on the north end of the lake.
Day's General Store on Route 27 in Belgrade Village generally carries all that is needed. They can be contacted by calling (800) 993-9500 or (207) 495-2205. For more information, visit
For more information on ice-fishing in Maine, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Augusta at (207) 287-8000, or visit the department's Web site at
One of the best trout waters in New Hampshire's lakes region is Newfound Lake in Bristol. While it doesn't get the same attention as Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam or others in the region, when it comes to lake trout and rainbows, Newfound Lake can hold its own.
The lake is blessed with a strong population of smelt, and big fish are nothing unusual. The state-record lake trout was caught here, a fish weighing more than 28
pounds. While such examples are rare, lakers over 10 pounds are caught each winter. The lake also contains rainbows and offers some good night-fishing for cusk.
Newfound Lake covers just over 4,100 acres, so there is plenty of area to fish. For lake trout, however, the deep water at the north end of the lake is a good bet. The same is true off Owls Head and Wellington State Park, both on the west shore. Lakers are also a good possibility off Whittemore Point on the east side.
These same areas also produce rainbows, which are generally found closer to shore and in shallower water. Hebron Bay, in the northwest corner, can be a good rainbow spot, too, as can the west side of Whittemore Point down to Mayhew Island.
Anglers should keep in mind that Newfound Lake is a designated trout water, so special regulations are in force. The minimum length limit on lake trout is 18 inches (15 inches on rainbows) and the daily creel limit is two fish. Each fisherman is allowed two ice-fishing devices. Check the fishing rules summary for other current regulations before you go.
Access to Newfound Lake is best from Route 124 from Bristol to the south. Route 3A borders the east shore along the entire length of the lake. West Shore Road travels along the west shore. Both routes offer access to the lake at several points.
Bait, fishing gear and accommodations are available in Bristol. Newfound Sales and Trading Post at 381 Lake Street in Bristol offers licenses, bait and everything else needed to fish the lake. Contact the store at (603) 744-8658.
With the increasing popularity of ice-fishing in recent years, more waters are now open to winter angling than ever before.
For more information on lodging and other services in the area, contact the Bristol Region Chamber of Commerce at (602) 744-2150, or visit
Upper/Lower Baker Ponds
Northern pike are the primary attraction at these ponds located in Wentworth and Orford. Although a bit out of the way, and though other pike waters are easier to reach, the angler willing to make the trip will find small crowds and many good pike.
Upper Baker covers about 186 acres, and the lower pond is just 95 acres, but don't let their size fool you. Lunkers into the double digits are a real possibility, and the action can be consistent.
There is no closed fishing season on either pond, so fishing can begin as soon as new ice forms and the action should continue until ice-out.
Access to the ponds from the Plymouth area is via Route 25 to Wentworth, and then Route 25A. The best services and accommodations are in Plymouth, which means most anglers hit the ponds on a day-use basis.
For more information, contact the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce at (800) 386-3668 or (603) 536-1001, or visit the agency's Web site at
For more information on these ponds or other ice-fishing opportunities in the Granite State, contact the Region 3 office of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 744-5470.
Not only is Lake Champlain the largest lake in New England, it also has one of our most diverse fisheries, with more than 80 species within its waters. Ice-fishermen generally target lake trout, landlocked salmon, northern pike and walleyes. Landlocked salmon, rainbows, brown trout and a host of panfish, including crappies, bluegills and pumpkinseeds, are also available to the winter angler. For some species, there is no closed season, so ice-fishing can start as soon as the lake freezes over.
For lake trout, some of the best ice-fishing areas include Crown Point north to Basin Harbor, Converse Bay, Willsboro and Shelburne bays and along the west shore of Grand Isle. Expect fish from 3 to 5 pounds, although 8- to 10-pounders and some larger fish are possible.
The area around McNeil Cove down to Converse Bay and Town Farm Bay off Thompson's Point can be good for salmon and browns. The daily creel limit is three fish with a 15-inch minimum length limit.
Good walleye action is possible in most of the bays, but is generally best south of Ticonderoga on the New York side and in Missisquoi Bay and the northern Inland Sea area near Swanton. The walleye season runs through March 15 and the daily limit is five. Any of the shallow bays is apt to produce pike.
Fishermen will find accommodations, bait and tackle shops in the Burlington area. For more information, contact the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce at (877) 686-5253 or (802) 863-3489, or visit the chamber's Web site at
www.vermont.org. Be sure to ask for a copy of the Lake Champlain Fishing Guide.
Lake Willoughby/Seymour Lake
Two of the best trout waters in the Northeast Kingdom are Lake Willoughby in Westmore and Seymour Lake in Morgan. Both contain rainbow trout but are best known for their big lake trout. Each lake consistently produces fish in the 3- to 5-pound range, but 8- to 10-pounders are not uncommon. Lake Willoughby holds the state record for lake trout, a monster weighing over 35 pounds taken in 2003.
There are few secret hotspots on either lake during the winter season. Hardwater anglers should work in 50 to 80 feet of water off obvious points.
In Seymour Lake, try the south arm where the bottom drops to over 100 feet or more. Some of the points on the west shore can be good also. The same is true on Lake Willoughby, but popular spots include along the east shore north of Mt. Pisgah and along the west shore north of Mt. Hor. There is also some good water off Westmore on the west shore and one at the north end of Lake Willoughby.
Both lakes open to ice-fishing on the third Saturday in January and close the second Sunday in March. Fishermen are limited to four lines at Seymour Lake, and no more than two lines may be baited.
Lake Willoughby is accessible from I-91 off Exit 26 in Orleans, and then take Route 58 east toward Lake Willoughby. Route 5A travels down the east side of the lake from there. Seymour Lake is accessible from I-91 off Exit 28 in Darby Center, and then Route 111 east to Morgan Center right on the north end.
For information on accommodations, tackle and bait shops and other services, contact the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce at (800) 639-6379, or visit the agency's Web site at
For information on licenses, bag limits and other regulations, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildli
fe Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit the Web site at
Massachusetts offers plenty of great ice-fishing, but for something different, Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield might prove interesting and exciting. This 480-acre lake has some good northern pike action during the winter months, but it is also home to tiger muskies, a sterile hybrid cross between northern pike and muskellunge. MassWildlife has stocked the pond with both species since 1980.
Anglers visiting the lake should not expect fast action. The winter fishing for both species can be slow, even uneventful at times, but Pontoosuc consistently produces some of the largest tiger muskies in the state, and when a lunker is hauled through the ice, it normally draws a crowd. The state and national record, weighing 27 pounds, was caught here.
The pond is also home to bass, pickerel, white and yellow perch, bullheads and black crappies, so there is plenty to keep things active.
The limit on tiger muskies is one fish per day with a 28-inch minimum length limit.
Access to the lake is via the public ramp area on the south end. To find it, take Route 7 out of Pittsfield, and then Hancock Road. A parking lot is available as well.
For information on lodging in the area, visit the Pittsfield Web site at
For more information on tiger muskie fishing in Massachusetts, contact the MassWildlife office at (508) 792-7270, or go online at
Fishing tackle is available at Dick Moon Sporting Goods at 114 Fenn Street in Pittsfield, or call (413) 442-8281.
This small lake covers approximately 112 acres about 15 miles east of Norwich. It has a maximum depth of 45 feet and offers a mixed bag of species, including largemouth bass, pickerel, yellow perch, brown bullheads and sunfish.
Amos Lake has been designated a Trophy Trout Lake by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. This means the lake is regulated by special regulations and is closed to fishing after March 31. It opens again in late April.
The lake is periodically stocked with brown and rainbow trout, but unlike other trophy trout waters, there are no slot limits. Between March 1 and March 31, the daily creel limit is two trout and the minimum length limit in 16 inches.
Access to the lake is provided near the public launch site on the western shore in the town of Preston. It can be reached by taking Exit 85 off I-395 to Route 164 south, and then Route 165 to the access road.
For information on lodging and services in the area, call the Connecticut Department of Economic Development at (860) 566-3948.
For more information on ice-fishing in the state, call the Connecticut DEP, Fisheries Division, at (860) 434-FISH, or visit the agency's Web site at
Covering 1,075 acres, Worden Pond is the largest public fishing area in the state. It is in South Kingston, within the Great Swamp WMA.
Despite its size, the maximum depth of Worden Pond is 7 feet. Its habitat is perfect for bass, and largemouths are the primary target. The pond has a healthy supply of bait, and bass weighing in the double digits are possible. Also available are northern pike, white and yellow perch, crappies and bluegills.
Access is via the public boat ramp on Worden Road. To get there, take I-95 to Exit 3, and then Route 138 to West Kingston and Route 110 to Worden Road.
For information on lodging and services in the area, contact the Rhode Island Promotional Division at (401) 277-2601.
For more information on ice-fishing opportunities in the Ocean State, contact the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife by calling (401) 222-1267; or go online at